icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Matt's Occasional Writing Blog

DUNE IN REVIEW (the Good, the Bad, and the Awful)

Could you brood a little more?

It's not often we get out to sci-fi movie premiers, but the Missus and I teamed up with another couple to check out the latest film adaptation of Frank Herbert's 1965 classic, Dune. Two and a half hours later (and with the tinnitus still ringing from the Dolby surround sound), here's the Good, the Bad, and the Awful of Denis Villeneuve's attempt to mash a wonky, complicated, pseudo-psychedelic 188,000-word novel into big screen, mass entertainment....

 

The Good

 

The cinematography in Villeneuve's Dune is fantastic. The settings were sprawling, beautiful, and at times, haunting. No doubt much of it is computer-generated, but still, every scene is intricate, and well-crafted, and carefully thought out--from the varying art styles in textiles to little details that only serve to pay homage to trifles in the novel (repeated closeups of a mounted bull's head trophy were a nice air kiss to Herbert's book). And if you like big machines, if you've ever gone to a monster truck show and said to yourself, "If only they could do this with space ships," well, strap yourself in, my friend, because believe you me, a $165 Million budget can whip up some thumping big machines and blow them up big-time. And since that's pretty much become the "spice" of modern sci-if movies, the sheer volume of metal and explosions in this film will all but guarantee it will be a money-maker.

 

The Bad

 

Villeneuve had a talented cast playing beloved, complicated characters. But apparently he gave them all the same direction: brood. You can almost hear him shouting in his director's horn: "I want those frowns to hurt, people!" Every actor on the screen, from every planet, great or small, came across the same--broody men and women brooding on their broodiness. Even the knife fights looked mopey. 

 

And some of that may have been a function of the script, which served up a heaping helping of flat blandness. In some places, the lines were just outright silly (note to screenwriters: when characters find themselves in a confined place that is literally exploding all around them, it is completely unnecessary to have one of them calmly suggest, "Let's get out of here."). It's all the more a pity because you could tell the actors were trying really hard to wring the most out of what they were made to work with (Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica deserves a "Bread Upon the Waters" award (if there were such a thing) for putting together a solid performance despite mediocre material, not unlike Bryan Cranston's surprisingly moving character in that 2014 Godzilla remake).

 

The Awful

 

 

The soundtrack. Oh, dear God. Hans Zimmer picked out a harmonic minor chord and pounded on the poor thing for two and a half hours. It was like Peter Gabriel's Zaar, amped up to 11 and set to play on an endless loop.

 

To Wrap-Up ...

 

So overall, the movie was "meh."' Which is a huge improvement over David Lynch's god-awfulness. But like the prior version, this version is going to be incoherent for anyone who hasn't read the book. Maybe that's the rub. Maybe Dune is just one of those stories that only works as a novel.

Be the first to comment

Happy Halloween!

Halloween.

All Hallow's Eve.

Festival of Pumpkin Spice.

 

It's that magical time of the year when we give a nod to all things pagan, gorge on prepackaged candy, and binge watch cheesy 80's horror movies. When shadows seem darker, and passing breezes feel spookier, and the moon looks ... moonier. Easily my favorite holiday.

 

On the writing front, I'm pleased to announce I just (re)sold a short story that will be appearing in a coming "best of" anthology. Bards & Sages Publishing will be releasing their annual Best Indie Speculative Fiction, Volume IV, and my story, Coin, will appear alongside some really talented spec fiction writers. Look for it this December. Here's the link.

 

https://bardsandsages.com/literary_offerings/best_indie_spec_fiction

 

Wishing you and yours a safe and scary Halloween!

 

- Matt

Be the first to comment

Quick Update

Sorry it's been a while, but life's gotten very busy--work's been brisk, kids are doing a million things, and ... we got a new dog :). (Isn't she a cutie?). So here's a quick update ...

 

First and foremost, The Mountain is out and slowly gaining an audience. It's a big, deep book that hits at big, deep themes, and the reviews have been positive (and very much appreciated).

 

In other news, the good folks at Ellysian Press are editing Yonder & Far, a historical fantasy. This one's more "light" and droll (and a blast to write). There's a couple of chapters in the middle that pay homage to Patrick O'Brian, one of my favorite authors of all time.

 

I'm still managing about 400-500 words a day on two works in progress. The first, which is at the finish line, is a first in form for me, a novella. No, not a Spanish TV soap opera, but a story that runs somewhere between a very long short story and a short novel. This one's called Look with Your Eyes. It's a darkly humorous suspense tale set in north Florida. An acerbic, anti-social professor of folklore at Umatilla University is determined to learn the truth about humankind's hidden nemesis, the squirrel. But what she finds in the neighboring town of Oak Slough is beyond her worst nightmares. I put the novel I was working on (Godless) on hold while I finish this up. Shouldn't be too much longer, though ...

Be the first to comment

Spring Update

Here in Tampa, the last of the pollen is going, and the muggy days are coming. Besides the allergies, everyone in the family is, thankfully, healthy. Work's been busy, but I've been able to keep a pretty good pace in writing. So here's an update on the works in progress....

 

I've got two novels coming out, one in the near future, the other in the very near future. They're both fantasies, and that's about the extent of their similarities. Coming out very soon, The Mountain (from Montag Press) is a quarter-million word, dark, epic fantasy with a strong twist of the gothic slow-brewed in some allegorical mysticism. Three narratives (and around a dozen subplots) gradually draw together into a cohesive whole that (I hope) will leave readers eager for the sequel (the story is a stand-alone, but there are enough loose ends to support a duology). The editing's done, the cover, back, and interior stuff are all finished; all that's left now is the layout. Look for a release announcement soon.

 

Meanwhile, the good folks at Ellysian Press have begun editing Yonder & Far, a more standard-length (at a smidge over 100K words) historical fantasy. Yonder is a little more light-hearted with a slightly upmarket tone. It follows the adventures of two Fae gentlemen banished in 1798 Boston, trying to find a way home. It's a little like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell meets Casablanca topped with a dollop of Patrick O'Brian and Freemasonry. The book was a heck of a lot of fun to write, and I look forward to seeing how the final product will shape up.

 

My current work-in-progress is something of a first-time venture in that I'm trying my hand at writing an entire novel in the first person. Which is more challenging than I thought it would be. But I'm coming up on the halfway mark, and it's picking up steam (I'm hoping the rough draft will be finished by the Fall). It's tentatively titled "Godless," and it's loosely based on a short story I wrote last year. If you want a sneak preview of the main character, check out my story, "Don't Call Me Godless," in the July/August 2020 issue of Collective Realms. You can read it for free at www.lazyadventurerpublishing.com.

 

Thanks for stopping by the website.

 

Matt

 

Be the first to comment